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Using a floating theatre, in the middle of the lake of Hatta Dam, celebratory music and dance, orchestra performances, traditional poetry, as well a light show and fireworks display using drone technology, were used to tell the history of the UAE Image Credit: Screengrab

Dubai: From the heart of Hatta, surrounded by the majestic Hajar mountains, the UAE celebrated its Golden Jubilee – 50 years of progress, inclusivity, innovation, tolerance and humanity on Thursday, during the official show for National Day.

The official celebration of the UAE’s Golden Jubilee took place on December 2, under the patronage of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the city of Hatta. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mu’alla, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Umm Al Quwain; His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi; Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah; His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Mohamed Al Sharqi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Fujairah; His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah; and His Highness Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman, attended on Thursday the official 50th National Day celebrations.

The celebration was also attended by a number of ministers and high-ranking officials.

Live screening

Everyone in the UAE had the opportunity to watch the live show broadcasted on all local TV Channels, in addition to the National Day’s official website. Screenings were also organised in all seven emirates for the public, including cinemas, cultural spaces, and public places.

It was a lookback at the country’s collective history – even decades before the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971. It was also a journey towards the future, as the country prepares for the next 50 years to come – towards 2071. It was a golden moment of jubilation and a delivery of a strong message to the world that – ‘This is the UAE’.

Using a floating theatre, in the middle of the lake of Hatta Dam, celebratory music and dance, orchestra performances, traditional poetry, as well a light show and fireworks display using drone technology, were used to tell the history of the UAE and its distinguished figures, including pioneering women, who shaped the country.

Hymns from the mountains

The eight-part 50th National Day show commenced with 50 drummers standing around the periphery of an oval lake floating on the deep teal water of Hatta Dam.

With percussive rhythms echoing around the mountains, the performers chanted Al Nadbah, a traditional ceremonial cry native to Shihuh, the Arab tribe that inhabits the mountain regions of the UAE.

As the chants rose to a crescendo, a single line appeared on the surface of the revolving sculpture, representing the first marks made by early human settlers on the land. From these early traces, the story of the UAE was revealed.

The singular line then transformed into numerous Wusoom, the marks or insignias used by various tribes to identify their livestock. Then, the various tribes and their wusooms united to become one.

Emirati compass

The second part of the show focused on Emirati ancestors, who were innovative engineers of time and space during their times.

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Depiction of an ancient astronomical system used by Emirati ancestors Image Credit: Screengrab

The show featured an ancient sundial that evolved into the earliest form of Emirati compass, known as Deira. The skies above Hatta were illuminated with 200 stars to draw the connection between the skies and land; while the revolving disc in the middle of the floating theatre was transformed into Deirat Al Duroor – the ancient astronomical system used by Emirati ancestors to determine natural cycles and seasonal livelihood, including farming, fishing and pearl diving.

Pioneering Emirati women

The third part of the show was a tribute to UAE’s five pioneering women – four of them were told for the first time during the Golden Jubilee celebration.

Organisers said: “From the routes across our lands, to the roots of our generations, we embarked on a journey into UAE’s history through the lens of powerful women and heroines who played an integral part in our story as a nation.”

First told was the life of Sheikha Maitha bint Salmeen Al Mansoori, wife of Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa, the grandfather of the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Known for her courage, Sheikha Maitha rode to stand against a group of men approaching her settlement. She even impersonated her own brother to protect her village. “Her bravery continues to inspire a generation of women today,” noted the organisers.

Next remembered was the story of Sheikha Hessa bint Al Murr Al Falasi, the grandmother of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice and President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Sheikha Hessa was recognised for her wise counsel and financial advice, and influence in the growth of Dubai. She was also famous for her philanthropy.

Third was Sheikha Shamsa bint Sultan Al Marar, who was an exceptional pearl diver and fisherwoman in her youth. She was remembered for her courageous efforts in preserving and promoting the rituals and traditions of the sea.

Another pioneering woman was Sheikha Hamama bint Obaid Al Teneji. Her story as a famous healer who used ancient therapeutic techniques, including ‘body branding’, has been immortalised in Arab film and literature. A botanist herself, she possessed great knowledge of the medicinal uses of local plants.

Concluding the tribute to UAE’s pioneering women was the celebration of the life of the Mother of The Nation Umm Al Emarat, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation.

“Her Highness has been leading several international and UAE-focused humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives to support women and children. And she continues to inspire and lead by example a generation of women who follow her lead,” organisers noted.

Father of the Nation

The fourth part of the show began with a silhouette of Sheikh Zayed on the horizon. As the Father of the Nation was standing over the hill in Al Smeih area, on a foggy morning in February 1968, the idea of the Union first began.

The show then recalled the momentous events that led to the formation of the UAE. Using multi-media and laser technology, the accord of the Union was projected on stage, with the ink of the Founders’ signatures, drying together in the December sun. This was followed by the seven Founding Fathers appearing in the iconic photograph taken on December 2, 1971, signalling the beginning of the United Arab Emirates as Sheikh Zayed delivered an emotional and inspiring message addressing the nation: “I assure you and pledge my sincerity and earnestness in everything I do for our citizens, nation, children, and brethren.”

From desert to green oasis

In the fifth part of the show, Sheikh Zayed was shown saying: “Give me agriculture, and I will give you civilisation.”

The show highlighted how what was once a bare and harsh desert, has been transformed into a green oasis, punctuated by palm trees and native foliage that now thrive in the UAE.

It was also shown how modern mega cities bloomed from the desert landscape – from the humble Al Shaabi houses, through wind towers and forts, to the most fascinating and skyscrapers that have become famous across the world.

Ishy Bilady

A heartfelt rendition of the UAE national anthem followed in the sixth part of the programme. ‘Ishy Bilady’ was sang and the patriotic fervour rose in the air as symbol and commitment to the unity of the UAE.

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UAE leaders were featured prominently in the show Image Credit: Screengrab

UAE at present

In the seventh segment, the ancient time-keeping tool, Deira, evolved into a complex contraption that further calibrated as time passed by.

Archival footages were projected on the floating stage – from the dredging of the Deira Creek, various developments in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and other key moments in each of the seven emirates.

UAE’s voyage into space exploration was also highlighted – as the nation put its first astronaut in space – and deployed Hope Probe, the Arab world’s first interplanetary mission to Mars.

The show also showcased how the UAE has brought the world together, culminating in the hosting of Expo 2020 Dubai.

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Fireworks light up the winter sky many times during the show Image Credit: Screengrab

Letters to the future

In the last part, the show focused on the UAE’s future. Three girls, writing letters to their future selves, represented the dreams and vision of the nation – with particular focus on space exploration, environmental protection and technology.

First girl was Nora Al Matrooshi, who penned a letter to her future self talking about space, stars and planets. Second was Maitha Bu Ghunoom, who wrote to her future self, asking about the future of our planet and how to protect our animals and marine species. Last one was Tufool Al Nuaimi, who asked about the possibility of counting every grain of sand in the UAE in a letter that she addressed to her future self. Her idea was about Big Data and innovation in digital technology.

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Maitha Bu Ghunoom during the show Image Credit: Screengrab

From 1971 towards 2071

The UAE Golden Jubilee Committee said: “We marked a historic milestone in our journey as we wrapped up the first 50 years of our history and began to prepare for the fifty to come. We travelled through our land’s history and witnessed the inception of our union and the 50 years that followed.”

They added: “We unwaveringly progressed towards a future that brought us all together, a future that considers our impactful and positive contribution to humanity. We moved forward and upwards, inspired by the story of our Founding Fathers, and guided by the legacy of our Early Dreamers.

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Founding Fathers of the UAE Image Credit: Screengrab

“Together, we have the opportunity to dream of the future we want to have. Together, in the land of dreamers, we build a tomorrow that will bring us all unitedly in the UAE for the next fifty years. Tonight, we begin our steadfast journey towards a future that brings together all who call the UAE home. From 1971 and towards 2071.”

Open to public

The spectacular UAE Golden Jubilee show is open to the public, starting from December 4 to 12. Tickets are available on

Behind the scenes 

For the first time in the UAE, 400 pyro-drones released flares and pyrotechnics during the show, which also featured 97 iconic UAE buildings, 101 animals, 98 plants, 200 nano LED drones, 138 members of the cast, and 18 Wusooms (tribe marks) that represented the different tribes and families in the UAE.

The creation of the UAE 50th National Day show took more than 147 days, with a team of more than 1,400 individuals from over 100 nationalities working for more than 1.5 million man-hours on site.

Last week, the UAE Golden Jubilee Celebrations Committee released a video media briefing that shed light on the team behind this year’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. The video revealed behind the scene footage, and is available to watch on the committee’s official YouTube channel.

On the artistic direction front, the official celebration is managed by Rawdha Al Qubaisi, Creative Executive Producer and Artistic Directors, Shaikha Al Ketbi and Es Devlin. The team worked with researchers from Bani and Al Culture led by Saeed Al Suwaidi, and the design team in Tinkah led by Kholoud Sharafi for the UAE 50th National Day brand. The musical composition was by international and local musicians, including Mohammed Al Ahmed, while The National Projects team managed all operations.